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Santa Barbara
Travel Guide

Santa Barbara featuring night scenes, theatre scenes and signage

Santa Barbara is a palm-lined city on the Californian coast, famous for its historic Spanish mission, wide sandy beaches and distinctly Mediterranean charm.

Sandwiched between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara is a popular tourist destination on the Pacific Coast Highway. With over 300 days of sunshine each year and a warm Mediterranean climate, Santa Barbara is often called the American Riviera.

Santa Barbara attracts everyone from laid-back surfers and the young, vibrant student crowd to the well-heeled traveller and celebrity set.

The wide boulevards are lined with palms, quaint red-roofed homes and boutique hotels in old haciendas. Wander along the waterfront between Butterfly Beach and the Santa Barbara’s East and West Beaches.

Say hello to the Masai giraffes at Santa Barbara Zoo, renowned as one of the best small zoos in the US, before stopping off for a lunch on Stearns Wharf, the city's historic wooden pier lined with seafood restaurants and waterfront bars.

Take an afternoon to head north of downtown to one of the city's most iconic sights, the Mission Santa Barbara. This imposing pink-and-white church built by Spanish missionaries dates back to the 18th century and has a mission-era museum, a sacred garden and a Chumash art gallery.

Another highlight is the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, a stunning Spanish Revival building with a museum and an 85-foot watch tower with sweeping views of the city and the ocean.

Thanks to its year-round temperate climate, Santa Barbara is very much an outdoor city and the many city parks, like the beachfront Chase Palm Park, encourages a healthy lifestyle. Head south to Carpinteria, a sleepy beach town famous for its world-class surf beaches. Or go west to Goleta, home of the University of California's Santa Barbara campus, and the city's airport.

Santa Barbara's famed celebrity set lives in the stylish beachfront suburb of Montecito, where you’ll see gated estates, hip neighbourhood restaurants, and the quirky Lotusland botanical gardens, once owned by Madame Ganna Walska, an eccentric Polish opera singer. Book ahead and take a guided tour around these fascinating gardens which include over 900 rare cycads, fruit orchards and a life-size topiary zoo.

Santa Barbara County is an easy region to explore. It has a reliable bus network across the city and to the beaches, as well as out to the suburbs. Or hop on Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner train, a coastal service which heads to Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley, known as Santa Barbara wine country.

After a day of exploring Santa Barbara's old missions, art galleries and designer shopping malls, or hanging out on the beach, head downtown to State Street and the many SoCal bars and restaurants.

Santa Barbara is an ideal destination for a few days en route along the scenic Californian coast, or to use as a base for a longer stay exploring the wine country and mountain region. Santa Barbara has a wide variety of accommodation, ranging from budget hotels and inns to swanky five-star beach resorts.

Where to stay in Santa Barbara

Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
4 out of 5
633 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA
Free cancellationReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is £214 per night from 24 May to 24 May
Located in East Beach, this beach hotel is 0.5 mi (0.9 km) from Santa Barbara Zoo, and within 3 mi (5 km) of Presidio Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County ...
4/5Very Good! (1,030 reviews)
"Clean"

Reviewed on 16 May 2021

Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
Hotel Corque
Hotel Corque
4 out of 5
400 Alisal Rd., Solvang, CA
The price is £95 per night from 25 May to 25 May
Situated in Solvang, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum and Solvang Festival Theater. Hans Christian Andersen Museum and ...
4.7/5Exceptional! (1,932 reviews)
"Beautiful. Clean. Very comfortable beds. Terrific bathroom and shower! Great location. Have stayed here before. Our go-to hotel in Solvang. Only negative on this stay: we requested slightly later check out time (12 noon vs 11 am). Front desk just said absolutely not. No explanation. No apology. But ..."

Reviewed on 17 May 2021

Hotel Corque
Hyatt Place Santa Barbara
Hyatt Place Santa Barbara
3.5 out of 5
4111 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA
The price is £123 per night from 19 May to 19 May
Situated near the airport, this hotel is 0.9 mi (1.4 km) from La Cumbre Plaza, and within 6 mi (10 km) of Mission Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County Courthouse. ...
4.1/5Very Good! (316 reviews)
"Excellent property"

Reviewed on 17 May 2021

Hyatt Place Santa Barbara
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.
Ocean View Cottage, Santa Barbara
Ocean View Cottage, Santa Barbara
457 Scenic Dr, Cottage, Santa Barbara, CA
Located in Eastside, this romantic holiday home is 1.2 mi (2 km) from Andree Clark Bird Refuge and within 3 miles (5 km) of Santa Barbara Zoo and Stearns Wharf. ...
5/5Exceptional! (8 reviews)
Lovely stay
"Jill was very accommodating"

Reviewed on 2 May 2021

Ocean View Cottage, Santa Barbara
Charming Santa Ynez Farmhouse
Charming Santa Ynez Farmhouse
2146 N Refugio Rd, Santa Ynez, CA
Situated in Santa Ynez, this cottage is 0.7 mi (1.1 km) from Roblar Winery and within 3 miles (5 km) of Bridlewood Winery and Lincourt Vineyards. Buttonwood ...
4.9/5Exceptional! (98 reviews)
Peaceful and relaxing
"We have stayed here once before and it was everything we remembered. There is nothing so wonderful as chicken therapy. I relaxed in the farmhouse backyard and worked my way through two books in three days while hanging out with the most gorgeous chicken. The farmhouse is so charming, and the interesting ..."

Reviewed on 16 May 2021

Charming Santa Ynez Farmhouse
Santa Ynez Numancia Suite Studio
Santa Ynez Numancia Suite Studio
3352 Numancia St, Santa Ynez, CA
The price is £283 per night from 7 Jun to 7 Jun
Situated in Santa Ynez, this apartment building is within 1 mi (2 km) of Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and Janeway-Parks Carriage House and Chumash Casino. ...
4.9/5Exceptional! (12 reviews)
Enjoyable experience
"Very nice, clean and in a quiet location. Jennifer was very helpful with providing information."

Reviewed on 18 May 2021

Santa Ynez Numancia Suite Studio
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

Popular places to visit in Santa Barbara

Top things to do in Santa Barbara

Reviews of Santa Barbara

4.5

Top Destination

5 - Excellent
49
5 - Excellent 63.63636363636363%
4 - Good
22
4 - Good 28.571428571428573%
3 - Okay
5
3 - Okay 6.4935064935064934%
2 - Disappointing
1
2 - Disappointing 1.2987012987012987%
1 - Terrible
0
1 - Terrible 0%

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

29 Nov 2019

Don’t expect Santa Barbara to be a cheap place to stay.

4/5 - Good

Verified traveller

21 Sep 2019

Very nice seaside city.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

18 Sep 2019

A must place to go.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

18 Sep 2019

Stunning area to visit, highly recommend

4/5 - Good

Verified traveller

9 Sep 2019

Really nice area if you are looking to chill out and relax.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

27 Aug 2019

Very family friendly and lovely beach and restaurants

Cities near Santa Barbara